Innovation: New biodegradable, biocompatible plastics from IBM/Stanford

Innovation: New biodegradable, biocompatible plastics from IBM/Stanford
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“Scientists from IBM and Stanford University have unveiled discoveries that could lead to the development of new types of biodegradable, biocompatible plastics. The result of a multi-year research effort, the breakthrough also could lead to a new recycling process that has the potential to significantly increase the ability to recycle and reuse common PET and plant-based plastics in the future. Todays announcement may have sustainability implications across a wide range of industries including biodegradable plastics, plastics recycling, healthcare and microelectronics.”

Environmentally sustainable plastics, smarter recycling methods, new ways to deliver medicine – these are all areas that could benefit from recent discoveries in green polymer chemistry by some of our scientists at IBM Research and Stanford University. The discoveries will be published in a paper in the American Chemical Society Journal, Macromolecules, on March 10th. You can find an abstract of the paper now at

Recently, my colleague Dr. Thomas Theis wrote about how IBM Research is exploring new areas such as DNA sequencing and water filtration using our chip, materials and nanotech expertise.

Similarly, this chemistry breakthrough around sustainable plastics represents another example of how we are expanding beyond our traditional boundaries by applying lessons learned in the development of photoresists for advanced microelectronics.

In the process of solving the problem of how to make metal-free materials and processes for the thin polymeric films that serve as lithography materials for on-chip application, we began exploring other ways to apply this research beyond the traditional IT uses with our partners.

Through pioneering the application of organocatalysis to industries such as biodegradable plastics, plastics recycling and healthcare, this discovery and new approach that uses organic catalysts could lead to biodegradable materials made from renewable resources in an environmentally responsible way.

The following video sheds more light on the breakthrough:

Dr. Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan presently leads the Science and Technology Organization at IBM’s Almaden Research Center.